Blue Jays fire bullpen coach Dane Johnson, hire Matt Buschmann

Dane Johnson (centre) (Mike Carlson/CP)

TORONTO – Longtime organization mainstay Dane Johnson is the latest departure in the Toronto Blue Jays’ ongoing coaching staff makeover, with Matt Buschmann hired to replace him as the team’s bullpen coach, according to two industry sources.

Also joining new manager Charlie Montoyo’s staff are Mark Budzinski as first base coach and Shelley Duncan as major-league field co-ordinator, a new role for the club, the sources added. The hirings of Budzinski and Duncan were first reported by Robert Murray of The Athletic.

Along with new bench coach Dave Hudgens, replacing the in-limbo DeMarlo Hale, the additions give the Blue Jays staff pieces from the Tampa Bay Rays (Montoyo), Houston Astros (Hudgens), San Francisco Giants (Buschmann), Cleveland Indians (Budzinski) and Arizona Diamondbacks (Duncan).

New hitting coach Guillermo Martinez was promoted internally after rejoining the Blue Jays this season as minor-league hitting co-ordinator, but had been with the Chicago Cubs the four years previous.

Pitching coach Pete Walker and third-base coach Luis Rivera are the only returnees from the staff of former manager John Gibbons. The fate of quality control coach Mike Mordecai wasn’t immediately known.

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Johnson’s departure is the most jarring, as he’d been coaching in a variety of capacities within the organization since 2000 and was the club’s second-round pick back in the 1984 draft.

The 55-year-old had been the bullpen coach since 2015 after 11 years as the club’s minor-league pitching co-ordinator. Before that, he climbed the ladder as the pitching coach at rookie-level Medicine Hat, short-season A Auburn and eventually double-A New Haven.

Along the way, he impacted hundreds of pitchers to pass through the organization.

Johnson didn’t reach the majors during his first go-round as a pitcher with the Blue Jays, spending five seasons in the minors and never advancing past single-A.

After two years pitching in Taiwan and a season as an assistant coach at Lamar University in 1992, he signed with the Milwaukee Brewers in 1993 and debuted in the majors the next year with the Chicago White Sox.

He appeared in 10 games with the Blue Jays in 1996 and 38 more with the Oakland Athletics in 1997 and wrapped up his pitching career with nine games of independent ball in 1999.

Buschmann joins the Blue Jays after spending the past year as the assistant director of run prevention with the San Francisco Giants. The new position was created by David Bell, who had been one of the finalists for the Blue Jays’ managerial vacancy eventually filled by Charlie Montoyo.

During an 11-year pro career, Buschmann logged 1612.1 innings that included 4.1 over three games with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2016, his final season. He spent spring training with the Blue Jays in 2017 before leaving the game, and joined the Giants last season.

Budzinksi, 45, is a former outfielder who was drafted by the Indians and spent seven years in their system as a player before eventually breaking through and appearing in four big-league games with the Cincinnati Reds in 2003.

He spent four years managing in the Cleveland system before getting promoted to the big-league staff to “support the big-league staff in all phases of advance planning – player preparation, player performance and on-the-field pre-game work. He will also help players adjust to the big-leagues when they get promoted from the minors,” Paul Hoynes of cleveland.com wrote last December.

Duncan, 39, is a former first baseman/outfielder who played with the New York Yankees, Indians and Rays during a 14-year pro career that ended in 2014. He began managing in the Diamondbacks system in 2015 at short-season A Hillsboro, advancing to single-A Visalia and, most recently, double-A Jackson.

Known for his intensity and toughness as a player, Duncan has a bit of history with the Blue Jays, earning a three-game suspension for jumping into a scrum that developed around Jesse Carlson and Jorge Posada during a 2009 brawl at Yankee Stadium.

The previous spring, Duncan earned another three-game suspension for a spikes-up slide at second baseman Akinori Iwamura during a spring training game versus the Rays.

The son of longtime pitching coach Dave Duncan, he told MiLB.com that, “managing is something that I’ve wanted to do since I was a little kid. I had my dad to watch and listen to all these years. I got to sit in the office with Tony La Russa after every game … picking his brain on decisions he made, listen to how he dealt with players and the media, spending time with GMs all my childhood, learning from them and also getting to play for some extremely successful managers. I got a chance to play for Joe Torre, Joe Girardi, Joe Maddon. These are some great guys to watch and learn from.”

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